To assist the food industry during the COVID-19 outbreak, Oklahoma State University’s Food and Agricultural Products Center and Office of Brand Management developed an FAQ on the impacts of COVID-19 on the food industry:
Can the coronavirus be transmitted through food or packaging?
There has been no evidence that food or food packaging is a likely source or route of transmission for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), according to the World Health Organization, the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Do imported products from other countries pose a risk of spreading the coronavirus?
There is no evidence to support the transmission of COVID-19 associated with imported goods. Specifically, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, animals or animal products imported from China or other affected countries do not pose a risk for spreading COVID-19 in the United States.
What is the food industry doing to combat the effects of the coronavirus?
Food and beverage companies, such as those in Oklahoma, are developing response actions and effective plans to help mitigate their risk and prepare for how they will deal with the effects of the coronavirus. These plans include establishing an interdisciplinary crisis response team of personnel from all aspects of the business to identify, assess and manage the risk presented.
What food safety measures are being followed to help ensure the quality and safety of food products during the coronavirus outbreak?
Food manufacturers are continuing to follow current Good Manufacturing Practices to help ensure the consistent quality and safety of food products by focusing attention on five key elements: people, premises, processes, products, and procedures. They also are following risk-based food safety plans, such as HACCP.
In addition to regulatory requirements, many food manufacturers voluntarily comply with GFSI benchmarked food safety and quality programs, such as Safe Quality Food (SQF), Brand Reputation Compliance (BRC) and Primus GFS. The food safety requirements listed in these programs often are more rigorous than the regulatory food safety criteria. The compliance with these programs is confirmed through independent third-party and customer audits.
How much risk does COVID-19 pose in the food industry?
According to Ravi Jadeja, Food Safety Specialist in OSU’s Robert M. Kerr Food and Agricultural Products Center, “The risk associated with person-to-person transmission of COVID-19 in the food industry is low due to the regulatory and third-party audit Good Manufacturing Practices requirements that specifically address the exclusion of persons with any infectious diseases from the food-processing environment.”
Additionally, said the Center’s Food Scientist Dr. William McGlynn, “As we continue to learn more about this novel viral disease, we can take comfort in the fact that our food supply continues to be safe and wholesome, thanks in large part to well-understood and well-proven food safety regulations and practices. Current health guidelines emphasize staying home, limiting social contact and eating in as opposed to eating out."
With these leading to increased demand for some shelf-stable foods such as canned goods, he said, "Our robust food processing industry should be able to meet these demands and help keep people safe and comfortable during these challenging times. We tend to assume that these sorts of foods have always been readily available and affordable, but of course, that’s not the case. Events such as we’ve seen over the past few weeks remind us that we shouldn’t take our food supply for granted."